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Richard Papousek's Outhouse Museum is the newest attraction in Colome.
Richard Papousek's Outhouse Museum is the newest attraction in Colome.

The Scent of Colome

Jun 7, 2017

Outhouse curator Richard Papousek’s contribution to humanity is more olfactory than “The Factory.” His Outhouse Museum in Colome is a small shrine to the historic design of private spaces.

The project began about 15 years ago and a few miles down the road in Gregory, where Papousek formerly ran an antique shop. The museum came into being as a tourist draw, but according to some grew into something much more than that, and according to others is still just a tourist draw.

“As a kid, I grew up with outhouses,” Papousek says. “We had them at our school and on our farm, and they’ve all kind of disappeared. And I thought this would be kind of neat to make a little collection, so I did that behind my store.”

He put an ad in the paper. “People thought I was crazy, but they did come across with some unique outhouses.” His collection includes a double-door, a doggy outhouse and a shack reputedly frequented by Calamity Jane.

The Gregory museum opened to some national media fanfare, and then settled into its existence as an outhouse collection in a small town on Highway 18. After Papousek closed the shop, the museum spent a few years in a temporary home, and then went away.

The museum is making a comeback in its new digs in an alley behind Main Street in Colome. Papousek has brought back some of the classics, along with some new, old outhouses, locally acquired. Each is accompanied by a summary of collected oral histories about its provenance and notable visitors received. “Each one has a unique story,” he says, though, “sometimes it might get embellished a little. It’s outhouses, what do you expect?”

Perhaps this installation will set down roots. “Gregory didn’t really want to be known as the dump of the world,” Papousek says. “I come to Colome and they welcomed it with open arms.” The city even laid some new gravel in the alley.  

Michael Zimny is the social media engagement specialist for South Dakota Public Broadcasting in Vermillion. He blogs for SDPB and contributes arts columns to the South Dakota Magazine website.

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